Set a 10-Day Quota

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Updated November 3, 2022

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The mystique of art and creativity shines a spotlight on inspiration and creative breakthroughs. A practitioner will speak more of the power of repetition, routine, and tangible deliverables.

This is a priceless lesson that many people have paid thousands of dollars in tuition to learn. As I share in Source Inspiration, graphic designer and Pentagram partner Michael Bierut assigned a project to his students: pick an activity and commit to doing it for 100 days in a row. Bierut recalls his instructions: “The only restrictions on the operation you choose is that it must be repeated in some form every day, and that every iteration must be documented for eventual presentation.” Bierut would repeat this project in each class in the following years. One student chose to dance every day, another chose to make a poster in under 60 seconds each day, and still another made a different version of the same poster each day.

This is a reliable way to gain experience, improve your skills, and build discipline. Lindsay Jean Thomson, who facilitates the 100 Day Project, an online project inspired by Bierut’s class, told me in an interview that there is a noticeable improvement in how the projects turn out from day one to day 100. “If you sit down and do something every day, you will get better at it,” she says.

One hundred days can sound like too much of a commitment, so I suggest starting with 10. If you feel on day 10 that it’s manageable, then continue to day 100.

You have innate discipline; it might just be asleep. The daily quota will cultivate this discipline, channeling it into your creative work, until it’s strong enough to take over and it becomes a part of who you are.

For added accountability, participants in the 100 Day Project need to share their progress every day on Instagram, and Bierut’s students presented their project at the end of the 100 days. To keep yourself accountable, I’d recommend doing the same form of public documentation during this 10-day project. If you find that the work isn’t ready for you to show to all of your followers yet, find a friend or classmate who might want to share their own 10-day project with you. Now you have an accountability partner.

The beauty of this exercise is that it also encourages you to find idle time and space in your day for your creative work, helping you form creative habits that will last well after this 10- or 100-day project is complete.

Or flip this prompt: Do the Opposite

Choose Analog

Before he became the Grammy-winning DJ Dahi, Dacoury Natche used to play, practice, and experiment with instruments. It was how he became a musician. As he gained success in his industry, more and more of his work was done on a computer. “So much of what I was doing just felt rigid because I’m stuck within a screen,” said Natche. As a response, he remembered what he temporarily forgot—that he used to make music outside of his screen, with instruments.

Using only analog equipment—nothing connected to the internet—practice your craft. Make something. Going back to basics can be a great way to revisit why you chose this work in the first place, as Natche describes. It’s a chance for us to let go of the constraints and systems we need in order to work with technology, and to remember the simplest elements of the craft.

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